Zanzibar archipelago is part of the ecoregion dominated by the Nothern Zanzibar-Inhambane forest mosaic covering part of the coastal areas of East Africa. It is a region of rich biodiversity with species ranging from the purely mountainous type to those thriving well under coastal aquatic or marine habitats. Its forest resources contain pockets of tropical rainforest and the rich mangrove forest that surrounds its coastline.
Due to the presence of clove plantations, covering much of north-west of Unguja island and the western, deep soil areas of Pemba island, visitors will hardly believe that the areas with true forests are the protected reserves of Jozani in Unguja island, and Ngezi and Msitu Mkuu in Pemba island. This is not to say that forests in Zanzibar are limited to only few places, but the fact is that shifting cultivation, firewood collection, harvesting of building materials, charcoal and lime making and other uncontrolled businesses have largely depleted the once flourishing natural forests. Most of these deforestation activities are widespread in the fertile, deep soil areas on the western side of Unguja and Pemba islands, a factor that explains why remnants of true forests in Zanzibar are all found on the coral rag zone or on areas left behind during the establishment of coconut and clove plantations.
Natural forests of Zanzibar consist of a mosaic of vegetations ranging from short coral bushes and thickets to higher, closed forests. Like many tropical forests, closed forests of Zanzibar have a bottom layer of herbaceous species, a network of climbers and the upper layer of perennial species. Besides the economically important hardwood species and bushes, the beauty of Zanzibar’s natural forest could be seen in a variety of palm species such as Coconut (Cocos nucifera), Areca catechu (Mpopoo), Elaeis guneensis (Mchikichi), Raffia palm or Raphia farinifera (Muwale), Phoenix reclinata (Ukindu), and many more. There are also many species of medicinal significance, some with ornamental value, and others available for a multitude of uses.
In general, dominant exotic species in Zanzibar include pines or conifers such as Pinus patula (Misonobari ), various species of Eucalyptus or Mikaratusi (e.g. E. zanzibarica and E. modernii, Casuarina equisetofolia (Mvinje), Acacia ingusetefolia, Terminalia catapa (Mkungu), Terminalia everensis (Mkungu wa Kihindi ), Teak or Msaji (Tectona grandis), and Callophyllum inophyllum (Mtondoo). These tree species have been planted in most forests as well as in different places in Zanzibar such as along the roads and surrounding other building complexes. For example, Conifers are found on the road from Mnazi Mmoja Hospital to Kilimani in Zanzibar.
Zanzibar has two main forest reserves:
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Apart from the forest reserves, isolated pockets of natural and established forest stands are found in the following locations: